Orbit War

Steve Jackson Games, 1992, 2 players, "intermediate complexity". This is a pretty bad game with a lot a problems on a lot of different fronts. First off, I'm not a big fan of little punched out cardboard playing pieces densely covered with a lot of numbers and acronyms. And this game should absolutely come with a couple of multi-compartment trays (with lids) in which to sort out the various playing pieces. SJG's inclusion of two chintzy little plastic baggies is a woefully inadequate gesture. The rules are very poorly organized and it is extremely difficult to distill the basics of the game in order to get started. It's almost as if they're written for people who have some innate understanding of the underlying precepts of the game - a lot seems to be taken for granted. A set of rules should start with an overview including a definition of all terminology, followed by a hold-you-by-the-hand section covering the initial setup (where you can actually start playing while still reading the rules). With the rules of Orbit War, you really have to go on an Easter egg hunt to glean the necessary information you need to get started. Once you do finally figure things out, the game mechanics are really simple. It just doesn't need to be this hard to get to the next stage.

In Orbit War, players represent Earthly super-powers duking it out with satellites in Earth orbit. Satellites are launched from Earth and placed into orbit. Each turn, the satellites rotate a varying number of hexes around the Earth, and, depending on the type of satellite, can be moved manually by the controlling player. Reinforcements can also be called in from deep space. The goal of the game is to amass the most victory points. This is achieved by maintaining certain satellite types in particular strategic positions in space (relative to the Earth), and by destroying enemy satellites (by exploding mines, launching missiles, satellite "hunter killers" and whatnot). Frankly, it's just not all that entertaining. I can't really put my finger on it, but we found the game to be a fairly tedious experience and called a winner about halfway through (and despite bailing early, it still took us a couple of hours to play). As more and more satellite units are placed on the board it becomes interminably tedious rotating them around the Earth every turn. And the movement phases become steadily more complex and confusing when it comes to tracking what you have and haven't moved. All in all, not a gaming experience we're ever going to subject ourselves to again.

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